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  • Writer's pictureHannah Pearson

HBO is Trying to Warn You about Narcissists. LISTEN!

Let's be real, HBO has been everyone's therapist this year, so take it's advice


Spoilers For: The Vow, Murder on Middle Beach, and The Undoing

Fifteen bucks a month is a pretty steep price to pay for a streaming service, but in the “Age of Corona,” anything that provides a modicum of escape, is worth every penny. HBOMax, like Netflix, and others, has been essential to my 2020 survival. To put it simply; I’ve watched an ungodly amount of tv this year and most of it has come from the Home Box Office.

Diving into the network giant’s latest has provided hours upon hours of shows with high production value, bang-a-rang writing, and A-listers a-plenty. But has there been a menacing motif to the shows and movies lately or are my algorithms revealing a little too much about myself?

Shows like The Undoing, Murder on Middle Beach, and The Vow, are completely distinct shows that center around very different stories. But they share one character: The Narcissist.

What is a narcissist? It’s a little more than a braggart friend or a peacocking ex-boyfriend. A narcissist is someone that has extreme delusions of grandeur about themselves. They are incapable of seeing themselves as anything but powerful, successful, and impermeable to any consequences to their actions. The pursuit of perfection, or just the illusion of perfection, can cause them to take advantage of anyone who can benefit them. There is no room for kindness or empathy for others, when caring about themselves takes up so much room. They can be charming and they can be dangerous.

It’s hard to recognize someone suffering from this personality disorder right away. We see their sense of entitlement as confidence. It’s the charismatic showman. It’s easy to be drawn to people like that because on some level we envy it. For many of us, we’re saddled down with shame and self-doubt, and rarely do we say or do the things we fantasize about. But the truth is, it’s not because we’re weak or flawed, it’s because we’re sane, compassionate human beings.

So if you’ve been watching HBO, maybe you’ve noticed the warning signs they are sending us.

Because while each man is uniquely terrible in their own way, the outcome for people associated with them is similar in that it is rarely positive.

So who are these guys and what can we learn from them?

The Vow

Image Source: Wikipedia

Keith Raniere is so textbook that he would probably gleefully brag about being the best narcissist. His inflated ego lead him to believe that among other things, he was one of the smartest living men on the planet and concert level pianist. Really, he was average in every way and his “intelligence” was just another white guy passing Ayn Rand and Jordan Peterson trash off as his own ideas. But people ate it up. Like a lot of people. So what does he do with the power his adoring fans give him? He starts a cult to drain bank accounts and get free sex. Why do people fall for his shtick? Because they believe him to be a genius and to be chosen by a genius makes them believe they are super smart too (spoiler: they aren’t) We are guilty of having our ego take the wheels sometimes, but unlike Raniere, we hit the breaks when we think we might hurt another person.

So what is the lesson we can learn from watching The Vow: If you wouldn’t fuck him if he were just a garbage man, don’t fuck him cause other people believe his garbage, man.

Murder on Middle Beach

Jeff Hamburg is guilty. You know it. I know it. Sadly, Madison Hamburg probably knows it too. It can be contested that Jeff Hamburg wielded the hammer himself, but there is no doubt he was involved. He had the motive, the opportunity, and all signs point to someone who knew the victim. But why did he do it? Sure, you could say because he didn’t want to pay child support or maybe he was afraid of Barbie turning him to the Feds, but the real reason he did it is because he thought he could. His narcissism leads him to believe that he had the authority to kill another person, the mother of his children, and that there was zero chance of him getting caught. And the worst part is that the Madison Police Department’s ineptitude is only fueling this delusion. Jeff sees himself as a big dog, a money guy, a classic NYC psychopath. His story is one of the most depressing of the bunch because Barbara probably wised up to his mental health problem and thought she was safe once she left him. But the gravitation force of a narcissist’s ego doesn’t let you escape that easily.

What’s the lesson of Murder on Middle Beach: Get far, far away and stay away if you meet a narcissist. Eat the cost, start anew, but never let your guard down.

The Undoing

Image Source: Harper's Bazaar

Oh, Johnny boy. Man did casting know exactly who to pick when it came to Jonathan Fraser’s character. Honestly, who is more charming, more drenched in charisma, more delightfully endearing than Hugh Grant? He perfected the trope in movies like Notting Hill, Two Weeks Notice, and even in Bridget Jone’s Diary we still want to fuck him at the end. So where does stuttering hottie Grant find himself this time? As a New York doctor married to the gorgeous Nicole Kidman, but also he is a murder. The adoration of his wife and son doesn’t keep him satisfied forever and eventually he starts up an affair with a woman in a very vulnerable place. The show purposely makes us doubt his guilt over and over again, as part of its message. When it happens, it’s usually after Jonathan gives us one of his tear laden spiel’s about he isn’t a murder. He admits to so many other sins so why wouldn’t he admit to bludgeoning his girlfriend with a hammer (Narcissist must love hammers) unless he was innocent? Oh, because he doesn’t want to go to jail and he knows those baby blues and crooked smile are gonna work. The twist at the end shouldn’t be a twist, and that’s the point.

So what should we take from this Undoing: Being hot, a doctor, a husband, or a father, or anything else seemingly “normal” doesn’t mean you aren’t a raging murderous lunatic underneath.

So HBO is giving you some sage advice like true crime Aesop’s Fable. Watch these shows for the entertainment, but take note of the red flags because Narcissists are everywhere. Have you noticed?

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